Commission Asks Sec. Albright to Stress Religious-Freedom Issues in North Korea

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2000

Contact:
Lawrence J. Goodrich, Communications Director, (202) 523-3240

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on October 10 urging that she raise religious-freedom issues with Cho Myong Nok, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea National Defense Commission First Vice Chairman, during his visit to Washington October 9-12. The Commission calls the North Korean government's record on religious freedom "abysmal," stating that the "government has imprisoned religious believers and apparently suppresses all organized religious activity except that which serves the interests of the state." The text of the letter follows:

October 10, 2000

Dear Madam Secretary:

On behalf of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, I am writing to urge that you raise the issue of religious freedom with Cho Myong Nok, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea National Defense Commission First Vice Chairman, during his visit to Washington October 9-12 as the Special Envoy of Chairman Kim Jong Il.

The North Korean government's record on religious freedom is, by all accounts, abysmal. The State Department's Annual International Religious Freedom Report - 2000 states that "[g]enuine religious freedom does not exist" in North Korea. The government has imprisoned religious believers and apparently suppresses all organized religious activity except that which serves the interests of the state.

U.S. policy with respect to North Korea has undergone significant change in the last year, including the announcement of the lifting of certain sanctions against the country. The State Department's announcement of the Special Envoy's visit characterizes it as "an important step forward in improving bilateral relations." The Commission urges you to raise the issue of religious freedom high on the agenda of your meeting to impress upon the Special Envoy that this issue is an essential part of U.S. relations with the Government of North Korea.

Sincerely,

Elliott Abrams

Chairman

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.

Hon. Elliott Abrams,Chair
  • Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh,Vice ChairRabbi David SapersteinLaila Al-Marayati, M.D.Hon. John R. BoltonDean Michael K. YoungArchbishop Theodore E. McCarrickNina SheaJustice Charles Z. SmithAmbassador Robert Seiple,Ex-OfficioSteven T. McFarland,Executive Director
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